The best thing about bodyweight workouts is the sheer amount of variety that you can get by simply putting a twist on the traditional pushups, squats and crunches. Variations such as the ones below not only allow you to get your daily workout, but focus on areas that are not emphasised in traditional squats, crunches and pushups.

With these in your armoury, you may delay hitting the gym for a little while longer, as these add complex movements to simple bodyweight workouts, that will feel more intense.

Shoulder Tap Pushups

Power pushups are an advanced variation of the traditional pushup that involves lifting one or both hands off the floor as you raise yourself up. These pushups increase stability in the spine, abs, hips and legs as well as add to upper-body coordination and strength. They also burn more calories than a basic pushup and increase your reflexes as you build up speed.

A basic power pushup is the shoulder-tap, whose alternating movements help develop coordination, balance and rhythm on both sides of the body. This is why it’s part of the mobiefit BODY workout routine, but only at an advanced stage when you get stronger. It also strengthens the chest, shoulders, and triceps. By performing the taps more actively, you can further engage the anterior core, specifically the muscles that produce and control rotation. This can be particularly useful to swimmers and athletes who play rotational sports such as tennis or golf.

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Before you start doing any power push-ups, ensure that you’re comfortable with regular push-ups and that you can maintain proper spine and hip alignment while doing the exercise. Doing the shoulder tap improperly may cause back and shoulder pain, or sprained or strained elbows.

Steps

  • Get in standard pushup position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your body should be aligned and straight from your shoulders to your ankles.
  • Bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the floor. Press back up almost to starting position. Now tap your left shoulder with the right hand.
  • Hold the hip and back straight as you tap. Then lower your hand back to the ground and start your next push up rep. This time, as you come up, touch your right shoulder with the left hand.
  • Do about 8-10 reps on each side.

Pro-tip
Ensure that you keep the core tight and your back flat throughout the movement. Do not allow your body to sway to one side or the other when tapping your shoulder. Keep the elbows close to your sides throughout the exercise. Breathing right is crucial. Exhale as your push yourself back up to plank.

It’s effective to combine power push-ups with pulling exercises, such as pull-ups or dumbbell rows. This allows you to exercise both your pulling and pushing muscles, and develop muscular strength and endurance in less time. For example, alternate a set of shoulder tap power push-ups with a set of dumbbell rows.

Vertical Leg Raises

No matter how much we may complain about them, leg raises are really useful. Not only do they contribute towards the washboard abs we’re all vying for, but, more importantly, they also strengthen and add power to the core muscles.

Some studies suggest that leg raises may even be more useful than crunches when it comes to losing stubborn belly fat. Not only to does it target the core and leg muscles but also involve all the main muscle groups including the abdominals, hip flexors, back muscles and thigh muscles. Various secondary muscles come into play depending on whether you are standing, lying down or using an exercise ball while performing the lifts.

Most aerobic exercises and sports require the active engagement of these muscles, and perfecting your vertical leg lifts can significantly improve your balance and coordination in everyday life.

Steps:

  • Lie flat on your back with your legs stretched out in front of you, a toe’s width apart. Make sure to keep your hands down flat on the ground near your sides.
  • Bend your knees and raise your legs. Your calves should be parallel to the ground, while your thighs are perpendicular. Keep your toes pointed while you do this, drawing your abdominal muscles toward your spine.
  • Straighten your legs until your feet are pointed at the ceiling. Keep your toes pointed and raise your legs as slowly as possible. Remember not to let your lower back arch off the ground, or you may injure yourself
  • Slowly lower your legs. Bring them down as far as you can while keeping your back flat against the floor. Your goal is to reach about an inch off the floor. Hold your arms in the same place, but use them for strength and support as you lower your legs.

Pro-tip:

  • Keep your lower back pressed into the floor to engage your abdominals and protect your spine.
  • For a tougher workout, you can lift your straightened legs all the up on a count of ten, and then lower them down while counting to ten again. This will definitely give your abs a great workout, but can be bit more of a challenge.

 

Sumo Squats

Squats are an excellent way to strengthen the lower body, recover knee stability, as well as prevent commonly faced workout injuries. And while they may seem tough to master, perfecting your squat routine adds more power and stability to your leg.  This has a host of benefits including a direct and positive impact on your running performance, particularly on irregular terrain and soft surfaces like sand.

Squats chiefly use the gluteal muscles in the body, but depending upon the variation you choose, it can also be an effective workout for your quadriceps, hip muscles, and calves, as well as your cores including the abs and lower back. A powerhouse leg routine, the very aptly named Sumo Squats, engages your hamstrings, quads, and glutes in one heavy-duty move.

Additionally, these wide-legged sumo squats place more emphasis on the inner thigh adductors, the muscles that move your legs in toward your body. Depending on your core strength, you may also find them testing your balance since it puts your body into a new alignment. This movement demands stability from your cores to keep from rocking forward or back on your heels.

Steps:

  • Stand with your feet wide, toes pointing out. Push your hips back and bend your knees, squatting until your thighs are in line with your knees. Make sure to keep your weight back in your heels.
  • Then rise back up, straightening the legs completely and squeezing the glutes at the top of the movement to get the most from the exercise.
  • Complete about 12-15 reps. Alternatively, do as many squats as you can for 30 seconds.

Pro-tip:
Do not let your heels lose contact with the floor as you squat and ensure that the knees are no caving inward. Keep the back straight as you squat so as to not out excessive pressure on it. The weight should be concentrated in the glutes and inner thighs. Inhale as you go down in a squat. Then, exhale as you go up.

Add in a weight or kettleball to increase the intensity. Make sure you are squatting well below the knee line in a Sumo Squat (claudinefoong.wordpress.com)
Add in a weight or kettleball to increase the intensity. Make sure you are squatting well below the knee line in a Sumo Squat (claudinefoong.wordpress.com)

It’s best to perform this movement as slowly as possible. It will be painful at first, but the slower you go the more effective the workout is.

Variation

To increase the workout for your calves and core, perform the sumo squat with your heels raised. Try not to put your feet down through the entire movement. You can also use weights to increase the resistance.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Whether you run, lift weights or do yoga, having strong and toned leg muscles will only benefit your overall performance, and squats are easily the most effective way to get you there. And when it comes to today’s squat variation, it’s the go-to workout for Matt Damon as he trained for his latest Jason Bourne movie. Squats chiefly use the gluteal muscles in the body, but depending upon the variation you choose, it can also be an effective workout for your quadriceps, hip muscles, and calves, as well as your cores including the abs and lower back.

Once you’ve mastered the basic two-legged squat, the next level is to take on the load with one leg. This is where the Bulgarian Split Squat power workouts come in. Considered to be a fairly advanced lower-body workout, this variation builds lower body muscles without the additional stress on the back, which can sometimes occur with traditional squats. It also helps stretch our hip flexors—the muscles that we keep contracted by sitting for long periods of time. Additionally, routines like this which requires you to balance on one leg also helps level any strength imbalances between your legs.

Steps:

  • Stand about two to three feet away from a bench or a step, with your back to it.
  • Lift your left leg up behind you and place it on top of the bench, allowing the knee to bend slightly.
  • Bend your right knee, and slowly lower yourself to the ground. Ensure that your back remains upright.
  • Hold the pose for a moment when your right thigh is slightly below parallel to the floor and your left knee is nearly touching the floor.
  • Slowly raise yourself back again. This completes one repetition. You can do about 8-12 reps before switching legs.

Pro-tip
Like all squats, inhale when you squat down and exhale when you come back up again. Keep your body weight on the front leg and you back straight and still through the movement. It’s best to do this on an exercise mat so as to prevent your back knee from scraping the floor. You can also decrease the height or use a lower step in case the knee of the back leg doesn’t come close to the floor. If you feel like you might lose your balance in the beginning, position yourself near a wall or a bar for support.

Variations
You can make this routine harder by holding dumbbells in both hands, depending on the weight category you are comfortable with. Start with the smaller weights before taking on bigger loads.

Knuckle Pushups

Perfected by boxers and martial artists, fist or knuckle pushups are an excellent way to strengthen your wrists apart from reaping all the benefits of a classic pushup. In this routine, the upper body is supported on the knuckles rather than the palms, which adds to knuckle strength and improves punching efficiency. However, it can benefit anyone looking for overall strength conditioning and a more stable core.

Knuckle pushups enhance the muscular stability in our forearms, shoulders as well as the back and the abs. This is particularly due to the decreased surface area occupied by the knuckles, which add greater pressure on the muscles in the upper body to maintain balance.

It also requires you to bend your arm slightly which gives your triceps are greater workout as compared to the traditional pushup. The most obvious benefit of knuckle pushups is to do with the wrists.

The pose demands that the wrists be held straight through the routine which means keeping the joint constantly stabilized. Over time, this leads to powerful wrists that help in a range of motions—from lifting weights to throwing a punch. For boxers, this is particularly beneficial as the constant contact of their knuckles against the floor strengthens the bones as well as toughens the covering skin.

Please only attempt the knuckle pushup on a padded mat, plush carpet or even better a rolled up towel, especially if you are a beginner. This exercise is not easy on your knuckles.

Steps

  • Get in a standard pushup position. Make sure your back is straight and your feet are shoulder length apart.
  • Make a fist with each hand one at a time, and place fist on the floor while still in pushup position. Focus on placing your body weight mostly on the first two knuckles.
  • Lower your body until it almost touches the ground and push your body back up, using your knuckles to hold your weight the entire time.
  • Don’t worry about the number of reps at first. Concentrate on getting your form right and maintaining your balance through the routine.

Did you know that India’s KJ Joseph once held the world record for the most number of knuckle pushups in a minute? The Kerala man who has several national records to his name, achieved this feat in 2015 with 82 pushups.

Pro-tip
Place your thumbs on the ground to help stabilize your body if you are falling over or feel very wobbly. If your knuckles get excessively sore, stop immediately and let it heal for up to two weeks before trying it again. Over time, once you’re knuckles and wrists are stronger you can move on to a harder surface to increase the challenge.

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